Friday, August 30, 2019

National Book Festival 2019

The 19th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, August 31, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators will be making presentations throughout the day on stages for Children, Teens, Fiction, History & Biography, International, Poetry & Prose, Genre Fiction, Science, and other themes & genres. Speakers include such writers as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, José Andrés, Raina Telgemeier, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, and many others. Further information, including a schedule of events and a map of the festival grounds, can be found at the festival website. Mobile apps are also available for the Festival.

This year's poster was designed by Marian Bantjes; a gallery of all Festival posters from 2001 to 2018 can be viewed here.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair: Freedom

Fifty years ago, on August 15, 1969, musician Richie Havens [1941-1913] had the honor of opening the Woodstock Festival on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music," the event was unprecedented in both scope and cultural influence, drawing numerous internationally-recognized artists and a crowd estimated at over 400,000. 

The video above shows Havens performing "Freedom," a song he improvised in the moment, and which closed out his set launching the festival. The poster to the right was designed by Arnold Skolnick, who was said to have received about $15 for his efforts. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Public Space One Launches Campaign for New Headquarters

Public Space One (PS1) is creating a permanent home for artistic experimentation and community in downtown Iowa City in two historic houses at 225 & 229 N. Gilbert Street:

—a gallery embedded in a welcoming community space
increased space for the Iowa City Press Co-op, a community-access educational print and book arts studio, with a new dedicated classroom space
a public reading room & archive for The Center for Afrofuturist Studies
a dedicated residency studio for the CAS and Free Studio Residency
light-filled private studios for local artists

an outdoor space for community gatherings and creative events of all kinds 

Please visit PS1's Kickstarter campaign site to learn more about this vibrant community arts organization and how you can help fulfill the vision for their new space. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Herman Melville at 200: Call Me Ishmael

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville [1819-1891]. As canonical in American and world literature as his compatriot, Walt Whitman [1819-1892], Melville's wondrous novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was published in London in October 1851, and a month later in New York. The London edition was simply titled, The Whale; it also lacked the book's Epilogue, which is essential to the story's understanding. 

It was at Arrowhead, his farmstead in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that Melville wrote Moby-Dick, and other such classics as Bartleby, the Scrivener. From his second-floor study, Melville had a view onto Mount Greylock, the tallest peak in the state, which he noted reminded him of a great white sperm whale breaching the ocean surface. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a nearby resident in the Berkshires, and he and Melville first met on August 5, 1850 during a literary gathering.

Hawthorne is perhaps the one contemporary who best apprehended the true merit of Moby-Dick, and Melville famously dedicated the book to his newfound friend: "In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne." Melville, however, did not have an equivalent reception from the reading public during his lifetime. It was not until the 1920s, after his critical (re)discovery, that his literary reputation began to grow into what it is today. Rockwell Kent's compelling illustrations for a 1930 edition of Moby-Dick also helped fuel renewed interest in Melville.

The illustrations above are from the Arion Press deluxe edition of 1979. The project was designed by Andrew Hoyem, and printed by letterpress in an edition of 250. It features 100 engravings by renowned artist Barry Moser, as well as a bespoke typeface, Leviathan, that was used for the initials of each chapter (Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes designed the capitals).

Arion Press has been called the last "full-service letterpress" in the country, replete with type foundry and book bindery. One copy of Arion's Moby-Dick was auctioned last year at Sotheby's for nearly $14,000 (from actor & bibliophile Robin William's estate). First editions of the original London and New York imprints are relatively scarce and even more expensive. Two useful Melville guides from leading antiquarian booksellers are "Collecting Herman Melville," by William S. Reese, and "A Checklist of Herman Melville's First and Major Editions," by Kevin MacDonnell.